BIOGRAPHY AND PERFORMANCE PROFILE
Clarinettist Janet Hilton has long enjoyed worldwide recognition through her extensive series of recordings for Chandos, ASV, EMI, BBC Classics, Clarinet Classics and Naxos and appearances in many countries. She is best known as a soloist and in chamber music but her diverse career has encompassed orchestral playing and teaching.
Throughout her career her exceptional musicianship and the eloquence of her playing have constantly been reflected in reviews at home and abroad. The Financial Times praised “the rare lightness and grace” of her playing and “the rapt eloquence of her phrasing, shaped with the quiet freedom of a great singer.” The New York Times ascribed to her “the kind of musical power that supersedes mere nervous energy.” For the Guardian it was as “a soloist who has no inhibitions about communicating with her audience eloquently and directly in her own persona” that her performance was exceptional and Michael Kennedy, in the Sunday Telegraph, wrote of a “perfect blend of emotion and technique” in a performance of the Brahms Clarinet Quintet.
Born in Liverpool, Janet won a scholarship at the age of 15 to the Royal Manchester (now Royal Northern) College of Music, where she studied clarinet and singing. Another scholarship took her to Vienna for postgraduate study.
First prize in a national competition for artists at the beginning of their careers led to her BBC debut in the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and many more broadcasts, solo and chamber concerts throughout Britain. Building her career from this start, she has played throughout Britain at festivals including Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Aldeburgh, City of London and the BBC Proms, where she premiered the Clarinet Concerto by John McCabe. Her career-long partnership with the Lindsay String Quartet until their retirement included recordings of the quintets by Mozart, Weber, Brahms and Bliss. Other chamber music partners have been the Pauk, Kirshbaum, Frankl Trio, Steven Isserlis and Nobuko Imai.
Her international solo career has taken her all over Europe, including an extensive tour of capitals and major cities with soprano Dame Margaret Price, and to Canada and the USA, where for eighteen years she was a member of the Michigan-based Fontana ensemble at its summer festival.
Janet’s extensive discography includes concertos by Weber, Copland, Nielsen, Stanford, Malcolm Arnold, Gerald Finzi and four concertos written for her by John McCabe, Elizabeth Maconchy, Edward Harper and Alun Hoddinott. Her concerto partners included the City of Birmingham Symphony, Royal Scottish National, Ulster, BBC Philharmonic and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras and the Bournemouth Sinfonietta , with conductors Neeme Jarvi, Mathias Bamert, Vernon Handley, Bryden Thomson , Rumon Gamba and Norman del Mar. A 2010 release for Naxos was of the three clarinet sonatas by Max Reger, with the British-based German pianist Jakob Fichert. Her most recent CD, Flying Solo, released in 2016 on the Clarinet and Saxophone Classics label, is of music for unaccompanied clarinet by eleven composers, among them Stravinsky, Messiaen, Malcolm Arnold, Lennox Berkeley, Gordon Crosse, Mark Anthony Turnage and Richard Rodney Bennett. She has recently (October 2018) recorded an album of chamber music by Arnold Cooke with the Pleyel Ensemble, awaiting release
Janet’s orchestral career has included positions as principal clarinet of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Welsh National Opera, Kent Opera and Manchester Camerata. For some time she was the London Sinfonietta ‘s regular saxophonist and while living in the USA in the 1980s she played regularly with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota.
A distinguished teacher, Janet has taught at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, the Royal Northern College of Music, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and for twelve years was Head of Woodwind at the Royal College of Music London, also conducting the wind ensemble, including in a performance of Berlioz’ Symphonie funèbre et triomphale. She continues to teach the clarinet and coach ensembles at the RCM and to serve as external examiner for other colleges.
Janet is in demand internationally for concerts and master classes, among other places at the Paris Conservatoire, Vienna University of Music and the Performing Arts, North Western University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and University of Indiana Bloomington in the USA, in Singapore, Hong Kong, and in Australia, where, after her first visit in 2014, she was invited back in 2015 for an extended teaching and recital residency at the Melbourne Conservatorium and a masterclass in Sydney. In 2016 she made her first visit to China for masterclasses and a concert in Guangzhou, and in 2018 made her third Australian tour, visiting Adelaide and Brisbane in addition to Melbourne and Sydney. Janet maintains a schedule of concerts in Great Britain, as a member of the Pleyel Ensemble (piano, wind and strings) and the Stadler Trio, with pianist Sarah Beth Brigss and violist Robin Ireland. She has served on competition juries in Britain, Canada, Italy and Ireland.
Janet Hilton is a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.